Aggression and Pain

Sir Miles Doo Bop
Arliss after surgery
Arliss' bone chips

Arliss to this day, and probably forever will be a run away.  That is perhaps the first lesson that ATRA folks need to take away from Arliss’ story.  We now know that we have two run away Rescue 'dales in our Deerfield House Pack.  Both Arliss and Fozzie Bear came to ATRA as run aways.  Both had been hit by vehicles, events which ended their running for a time because they simply couldn’t run any longer.

Fozzie Bear was a puppy runner, hit by a pickup truck near Wheeling, West Virginia.  The shelter that picked Fozzie up took him to the vet.  The Vet was supposed to have put Fozzie to sleep because they knew that they couldn’t afford the expense of his hip repair.  The vet messed up and neutered him.  With that money already spent on Fozzie, and the shelter knowing that they couldn’t afford to fix the damage to his right hip that the truck had caused, they called ATRA hoping that ATRA could try to help Fozzie.  Sandi Sprankle drove from Wadsworth, OH to West Virginia and took in Fozzie.  His right hip joint was shattered by the truck.  ATRA took care of his FHO hip surgery and Sandi took care of Fozzie’s short term rehabilitation care.  Mike and I took Fozzie to foster him through his full recovery.  Fozzie was driving Sandi and Don’s senior Airedales crazy as he gained mobility.  We had young fit Airedales that could play with Fozzie and assist with his rehab.

We had Fozzie for several months when Sandi located a placement for him in Ohio.  He did fine there until the infant grand child started crawling about the house.  Fozzie is one of those Airedales that wants to be in charge of everything.  He is smart, very active, and a very alpha sort of Airedale.  He takes a strong hand and constant reminding that he is NOT in charge of the house and all of the souls therein.  Mike and I called him back from this home and adopted him permanently.  One of our previous foster boys had been put down due to aggression by his adopters and we did not want this to happen again with one of our foster boys that we knew was not vicious.  He continues to be a runner.  He can not be trusted off lead at all.  Given a chance, a smell or something he sees will pull him away from the pack and off he goes.

These experiences along with our experience in coping with our first ATRA adoptee Sir Miles Doo Bop, brought to us by Annette Hall, have made Mike and I some of the most sought out people in ATRA when it comes to Airedales that ATRA encounters with aggression issues or aggressive behaviors.

Sir Miles bit people.  No other way to put it.  We ended up with him because he had bitten people and he wanted to eat the man of the house in which Annette Hall thought that she would place him.  With us, he was a pussy cat from the first seconds.  He loved us and Mike in particular.

That was, until Miles nailed me.  I had known something was wrong with Miles.  He just was NOT right.  I kept centering on his cracked off tip on his lower left canine.  But, his vet from puppy hood had not treated it.  Sandi’s vet had not treated it.  My own vet looked at it when I pointed it out and asked about it and he made nothing of it.  After Miles bit, I promptly made an appointment with Dr. Benjamin Colmery.  He is a veterinary dentist.  When Dr. Colmery took one look at Miles’ mouth, he said that the tooth was most certainly the probable cause of Miles’ pain.  We decided that we would take a very though look for any other possible sources of pain which might be the cause of Miles’ aggression while Miles was asleep for oral examination and other x-rays.  It WAS the tooth.  Miles jaw was infected into the bone.  The tooth was abscessed and had to be surgically removed.  I carry his tooth with me as a constant reminder of this first lesson of aggressive behavior in Airedales.

Later in Miles’ life, another source of aggression appeared with our sweet huge Airedale boy.  He developed Endocrine Immune disorders.  These manifested via aggression, food allergies, skin disorders, severe digestive illness and cancer.  We treated him very successfully over his 12 year life with the help of Dr. Alfred Plechner who was practicing in Los Angeles, CA at the time.  He has written a book, Pets at Risk, (available for purchase on which details how to diagnose these very prevalent Endocrine Disorders.  The Airedale on the cover of Pets at Risk is NOT Miles, but they did find a dog that looked just like him for the cover photograph.  Miles was the inspiration and driving force that got me to talk Dr. Plechner into writing this book before he retired and quit active practice.  This book explains in great detail how owners and veterinarians can successfully diagnose and treat these highly prevalent endocrine disorders in our animals.  Many Airedale owners KNOW that this works.  We have seen it work.  It is based on many years of clinical observation, testing, and treatment via the protocols that Dr. Plechner developed for treating these animals.  Miles ended his 12 year life being able to walk happily around our neighborhood at Mike’s side with wagging tail and the children of the street loving on him and hugging him.

So; Arliss, the point of this tale?  He too was a runner and remains so today.  I got the call from his ATRA rescuer, Chris Bettis, before Memorial Day weekend of 2006 because of the ATRA network and the knowledge in ATRA that Mike and I know about aggressive Airedales.

Arliss had bitten in his ATRA adoptive home.  He was in trouble.

It was Memorial Day weekend.  Arliss was in quarantine facing being put down.  His family knew that he was not a vicious Airedale but could not account for his having bitten.  They decided to surrender Arliss to ATRA again.  Being Memorial Day weekend, Patty Eisenbraun delayed her plans and arranged to meet Arliss when he arrived in Michigan from New Hampshire.  Patty knew what had recently happened with Arliss.

Patty had also been at our side through our ordeals in learning how to help Miles with his problems, our work with Jake, and our work with Fozzie.  She knew the order of things in the search for why an Airedale is behaving aggressively.

1. Any dog will bite given the correct set of circumstance.
2. Search for any possible cause of pain in the dog.  Hurting dogs are often biting dogs.
3. Search for any possible medical issues in the dog, in particular, the Endocrine Immune Testing required for diagnosis prior to treatment via the Plechner Protocols.
4. Search for psychological issues in the dog.  Have experienced and trained canine behaviorists examine, test, and evaluate the dog for a professional opinion regarding the temperament of the dog.  Abused, mis-trained, unsocialized dogs or fearful dogs are often biting dogs.

When Arliss jumped out of the SUV to the ground, he came up limping on his right rear leg.  Patty immediately asked about it.  She was told that he had been limping on it for the entire time he was in adoption.

In fact, Arliss had been seen by many veterinarians since his having been hit by the vehicle in Mississippi.  Some top quality veterinarians and at a veterinary school of medicine in the East.  No cause of his pain was found, so he was kept on pain medications.

Well, Patty, being Patty, added things up immediately.  She took him directly to her veterinary hospital for boarding for the Memorial Day weekend and told them to have Dr. Wright, the staff Orthopedic specialist, start working to determine exactly what was wrong with Arliss’ right rear leg and why he was in pain.

The next week, Arliss was put under anesthesia and very detailed X-rays were taken.  Dr. Wright found the cause of Arliss’ pain.  When the vehicle hit Arliss, his ankle or hock was twisted.  This caused some ligaments to pull away from the bone; a bad sprain of his ankle.  With the ligaments came some bone chips and these had lodged in the joint.  This is not uncommon.  It has happened to me personally, but not my ankle.  It was my thumb that I sprained.  I too had a bone chip in the joint.  Mine was fine for 20 years, then, it moved into the joint and began to press upon a nerve there.  It was exquisitely painful and required surgical removal.

Arliss was deemed OK medically other wise and Dr. Wright wanted to wait a time before doing the extensive surgery that removal of the bone chips would require.  He had just been under anesthesia and Dr. Wright wanted some time to pass before he anesthetized him again.  So, Arliss went and spent a couple of weeks with ATRA’s behaviorist of choice.

Over a couple of weeks living with, training, testing, and evaluating Arliss, she determined that Arliss was NOT a vicious Airedale.  Just what everybody who met Arliss already knew.  There isn’t a mean bone in Arliss’ body.  He is a goofy young Airedale boy that is mouthy, but not a mean dog.

Given these facts, ATRA decided to have Arliss’ leg repaired.  Mike and I would foster Arliss during his recovery.  We have had good experience working with ATRA Airedales who have had orthopedic surgery.  Fozzie - FHO, Miles – knees, Remi – FHO  We have worked with Dr. Wright and he knows that we do the right things with his patients.

Arliss recovered just fine.  The hospital staff loved him.  He was very patient with his cast for 5 weeks.  Today, if he does a bit too much running or jumps around too much, he will favor his leg briefly then back to walking around like a normal Airedale.  He is not on any pain meds, goes for walks and runs, does steps just fine and is a playful, happy and content member of the Deerfield House Pack of ATRA Rescue’dales.

Arliss is a classic example of reasons number 2 and 3 as to why a dog bites.  Why and how he came to bite, exactly when he did bite, we will not know for sure.  But, we do know that he was in pain; and the pain was due to a medical issue that was able to be resolved for him by caring humans.

Once again, ATRA has done the right things for an Airedale in need of the right humans to help them with their current crisis in life.  None of this is able to happen absent this fine organization, dedicated, knowledgeable volunteers and rescuers, and the funds to do what needs to be done when it needs to happen for the Airedales.

Thank you ATRA.

Kirk Nims
Mike Billion
and the Deerfield House Pack – Andy IV, Fozzie Bear, Sir Miles II, and Arliss